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The Other Cisco: Investors Ignore the Good

This is yet another recent example of how irrational the market continues to be in its appraisal of earnings performances and growth expectations, as well as the different standards applied to companies that are (remarkably) within the same sector. It seems for Cisco, Wall Street expects it to be always great just to get treated fairly, while also discounting its strong balance sheet -- one that includes almost $50 billion in cash.

As it stands the stock is now trading at just over $17 per share after yet another excellent earnings report that demonstrated not only a tremendous level of execution but also sound decision-making in the face of shrinking corporate enterprise budgets.

The company's recent quarter was a proclamation to the market that Cisco intends on doing exactly what it takes to not only compete more effectively, but also return value back to shareholders by increasing its dividends.

Cisco said it will raise its dividend by 75%. The new quarterly dividend of 14 cents per share now represents an annual yield of 3.2% of the company's current stock price -- offering yet another reason to be bullish the company.

On the subject of the dividend, the company's CEO, John Chambers offered this: "We wouldn't have done the dividend commitment and the cash commitment if we didn't see stabilization in our business and had good confidence going forward."

He said this the company still sees growth even as rivals Hewlett-Packard (HPQ), F5 (FFIV) and Juniper (JNPR) absorbed shrinking sales.

Yet in some cases, the rivals are trading at much higher valuations. Moreover, with a forward price-to-earnings ratio of 8, the stock is now trading with minimal expectations -- pretty remarkable for a tech company, particularly one that now has six consecutive quarters of earnings beats. Disappointingly, investors remain blinded by the fact that Cisco still owns over 60% share in the all-important switching business and over 50% in routing. There isn't another competitor that comes close.

From an investment standpoint, even on the most conservative assumptions, the stock represents tremendous value, by at least 40%. Without question, $25 to $28 should be where the stock is heading if one includes a modest 4% annual growth in free cash flow coupled with its existing $48 billion currently on the company's books.

Clearly the company is of the belief that there will be a pickup in the global economy and its stock price should soon appreciate commensurately.

At the time of publication, the author held no position in any of the stocks mentioned.

This article is commentary by an independent contributor, separate from TheStreet's regular news coverage.

Richard Saintvilus is a private investor with an information technology and engineering background and has been investing and trading for over 15 years. He employs conservative strategies in assessing equities and appraising value while minimizing downside risk. His decisions are based in part on management, growth prospects, return on equity and price-to-earnings as well as macroeconomic factors. He is an investor who seeks opportunities whether on the long or short side and believes in changing positions as information changes.
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